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DAVID ROSMAN: Both sides get some blame in Ferguson shooting

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. CDT

Part of the problem is that there are too many people involved who are not part of the community.

Part of the problem is that we "think we know" what happened.

Part of the problem is that the violent shooting death of Michael Brown has been met with street violence.

Part of the problem is that Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson failed to communicate about a number of issues concerning this case, and his department has not had good relations with the Ferguson minority communities or the media.

Part of the problem is that the news media may be calling "factual" what is speculation.

There are only a few facts that we know from the news reports. Brown was allegedly walking down the middle of the street when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson approached him. We know that there was some sort of altercation and that Wilson fatally shot Brown. That is it. The only civilian witness to the case said that Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot. Wilson said that Brown was going after his weapon.

We do know that even though there was a dash-mounted camera in the police car, it was not working at the time.

We do know that there have been nights of riots and looting in Ferguson as the community protests the perceived injustice of Brown's death.

We do know that there has been a lot of miscommunication by the Ferguson Police Department and a lack of cooperation with the media.

Add fuel with the celebrity of the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson into the already volatile mix. Having the Missouri State Highway Patrol taking over the public safety duties in Ferguson could not hold the powder keg from exploding.

The rest is just speculation. That is not to diminish the tragedy that another black man is shot and killed by the police for what seemingly was a minor offense, blocking traffic.

I lived through the riots in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn when I was a kid. As with the Ferguson riots, most of the destruction was of businesses that served the community and had nothing to do with the triggering incident. And like Bed-Stuy, there was no reason to protest in Ferguson in such a violent form.

A friend of mine asked if the looting could be justified. I cannot think of any justification for theft as a form of protest. In the case of Ferguson, the looting was not for survival but as an act of vengeance, and vengeance only creates a larger problem of more force shown by the authorities.

I have worked with a lot of cops in my 60-plus years. It would not be a hyperbole to say that there are a few bad apples out there, but for the most part, the cops are just doing their job protecting the public.

Yet, the police are looking more like a military force, which cannot be denied. I recommend the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces" if you want accurate information about how our police look more like combat troops.

However, the violence must stop in this conflict. Ferguson should never have been in the national (and international) news in the first place. Things got out of hand very quickly, and we must place blame on both sides. I agree with the protesters on the corner of Stadium Boulevard and Broadway; racism must stop, but it is not that simple.

Better communication, better community relations, reduction in militaristic public safety officers and better reporting by the media as to what is fact, what is speculation and what may be purely fiction.

For the time being, we know one young man is dead and a police officer with an otherwise service of distinction is the target of rage. Let us allow the FBI and Department of Justice to do their jobs and determine what happened, what we will call “the facts” in this case. But the violence on both sides must stop now before more property is destroyed or another is wounded or killed in the name of Michael Brown and “justice.”

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.


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Comments

Ellis Smith August 20, 2014 | 3:52 p.m.

The only undisputed "fact" is that a person is dead.

An investigation, when completed, will no doubt bring forth more facts, but regardless of what they may be, should they even slightly favor one side's views over the other's, the side they don't favor will steadfastly refuse to believe them.

THAT is the biggest problem! It is very difficult to see an end to it.

As for burning and looting, I've seen that elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. There's never an excuse for it, and the victims are often those unable to stand the financial loss.

In 1973 a cabinet minister in the Argentine federal government was gunned down in broad daylight (at Noon on a business day) by an assassin using a submachine gun. The event was caught live and up close by a TV cameraman, and - you guessed it - shown ENDLESSLY on TV. Since this was state-owned TV there were no commercial breaks, and, of course, the commentary was in Spanish. Actually, the footage was so explicit and so graphic that no commentary was needed - in any language. The entire country was shut down. For nearly 48 hours no phone calls or FAX transmissions out of the country were allowed (the state, as is the case in many countries, had a monopoly on those services) so I could neither communicate with our home office nor my family. Fortunately, since the event was apparently judged of little consequence by American print and TV media, my wife was unaware there was a problem.

We continued working. I was not allowed (for my safety) to leave my hotel, but the Argentine engineers were allowed to visit me. My room was a mess, with blueprints, calculation sheets, and ash trays everywhere. We got a lot done. What else WAS there to do?

As far as I'm aware the assassin was never apprehended. There were demonstrations, mostly peaceful. At the same time in 1973 people were dying in the streets of Santiago, Chile.

Just an average week in Latin America, but we're on the road to getting there too. We will only need a few more years.

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